Simple status & engagement on Facebook

By Rachel Reuben - Thu, Aug 27, 2009-->


General, Social Media

Simple status & engagement on Facebook

Last week I updated our university’s Facebook Fan Page status to say:

I thought it might get a comment, or like, or two, but was absolutely floored to find this volume of response, most of which came within the same hour I posted.

And then it happened two more times within the same week.

Here’s an expanded view of some of these comments:

Sometimes, keeping it simple just works. SUNY Plattsburgh is also having a great deal of interaction over on their page as is SUNY Oswego. Never before have we seen alumni comment on our wall. This spirit and sense of community is a gold mine for alumni relations. One of the comments was actually an alum asking if we have a separate Facebook Fan Page just for alumni. (We don’t. Yet.)

I didn’t have a strong strategy behind the scenes. We didn’t hold committee meetings to decide what to say.  I just hoped for some new students to share their excitement, to feel welcomed, and to breath a little life into our page, instead of the “business as usual” answers to the same questions over and over again.

Something as simple as a status update that ties to an emotional time in new, current, and former students lives seems to resonate. This has expanded my thinking on how we’ll use this feature going forward. Maybe your campus has certain traditions (i.e. Slope Day at Cornell University, Foundation Day at the University of Albany, etc.) - highlight or countdown to some of them, give them behind the scenes updates and snapshots.

How are you using your university’s status? Are you seeing this kind of interaction?

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engagement, facebook, highered, interaction, status

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This post was written by:

Rachel Reuben

Rachel Reuben - who has written 33 posts on .eduGuru

Rachel Reuben is the Director of Web Communication and Strategic Projects at the State University of New York at New Paltz, where she has worked in various Web communication, public relation, and marketing capacities over the last 11 years. Her areas of interest include eRecruiting, the use of social media in higher education for marketing and communication, as well as information architecture and user experience. Read her complete bio.

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25 Responses to “Simple status & engagement on Facebook”

  1. Avatar image
    Devin Mason Says:

    Thanks for documenting this! I wanted to share something that I found really interesting in regard to status updates since our students have returned to the SUNY Plattsburgh campus in addition to what you’ve mentioned.

    Though its only day four of the students being back, it is worth noting that when we posted something regarding students moving back, we almost immediately had one of our alumni comment on it, and from there it snowballed and we ended up with 29 comments (mostly from alums) and 3 likes.

    The next day we posted about our ranking in US News and World Report, and within a minute three people had “liked” the link. By the end of the day we had 31 people who liked the link, yet no one commented on it.

    I was initially surprised by this, but it kind of makes sense. If you see someone comment, you’d probably want to comment too. If you see someone “like” a link, you’re probably more inclined to “like” it too. It is the viral nature of social media in action. You see someone in your network do something and you follow suit.

    But which is more valuable to you? A “like” or a comment? How can your institution take into account and take advantage of the viral nature of the network?


    • Avatar image
      Rachel Reuben (author) Says:

      Like vs. Comments: I think they each have their own value, but if forced to choose, I’d have to say the comments are likely more valuable, as they’re tangible, specific and quotable. But, I sure like when folks “like” stuff we post! :)


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    Ryan Says:

    Interesting post. We experience the same thing with the Univeristy of Minnesota Facebook page. Posting pictures of campus landmarks and traditions tends to generate some of the most commented and “liked” status updates. I think its a great way to bring our school’s community (alumni, students and the general public) together.


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    Jamie Hastings-Smith Says:

    It’s funny.

    June 29th I posted some info on our Green Initiatives and it became the most “liked” post on our page. I was floored.

    So, I had been looking for something else along that vein. Finally, I found our recycling program and basically took pictures of “garbage” and posted them. Another strong response.

    It’s great to know what people are interested in for publications and programming that we would have never known.

    Similar to your post. I think it was yesterday I watched a family move-in day video from 1969 on YouTube [I think it was UMass Amherst) and it seemed to really strike a cord with both alumni and new students. It was very cool to read those comments.


  4. Avatar image
    Kati Davis Says:

    The KISS rule holds true! Seems like you’ve done a great job of creating an online environment where people feel very comfortable commenting. I’m not sure a school jumping right out of the gate with their Facebook page would have the exact same response at first, but you have to start somewhere, right?

    It’s interesting that even though the messages are geared toward students, alumni are also brought back to the campus virtually. They love to reminisce about what their first move in day or first day of classes was like - you don’t forget that feeling. I would think this kind of interaction makes them much more inclined to donate on down the line more so than a letter they receive in the mail asking them for donations.


    • Avatar image
      Rachel Reuben (author) Says:

      Now you make me want to change the headline of this post to just:
      Facebook: KISS



  5. Avatar image
    Michael Fienen Says:

    I’d mention that pictures are a great conversation starter, and are usually easy to get a hold of and toss up. I walked around at lunch one day, took a handful of campus shots (nothing even professional, just point and shoot kind of things), and this was the result:


  6. Avatar image
    Glenn Says:

    That second-to-last FB comment — classy!


    • Avatar image
      Rachel Reuben (author) Says:

      Yeah, well, I could’ve edited it out, but it’s genuine & it happens. That’s the beauty of social media.


      • Avatar image
        Glenn Says:

        So you don’t delete offensive comments or obvious trolls? Why not? Would this be a first-amendment question, since public universities are part of the government? Don’t you think offensive or tasteless comments might interfere with your marketing? Not criticizing here, just curious.

    • Avatar image
      Rachel Reuben (author) Says:

      That comment is not the slightest bit offensive or attacking. Sure, it’s not flattering the institution, but it’s his/her opinion, and was completely ignored by the community. The only circumstances in which I would ever delete a comment are if they are a direct attack on the individual, use profanity, or otherwise excessively offensive. It’s his/her own opinion, and they’re free to share that. Sure, it’s not ideal, but it’s the 1% rule — 1% of the people are going to always take advantage of a situation or say something negative. We don’t cater to them. We’re there for the other 60+ people that had positive comments to share with us on the wall.


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        Glenn Says:

        You don’t think anyone would be offended by the word “snatch” in reference to women?

  7. Avatar image
    Erin Kinzel Says:

    Very interesting. I also have been surprised by the reaction to the simple comments I’ve posted on our college’s page.

    We didn’t start using Facebook consistently until March of last year and our interactions have slowly been building since then, but it seems that there is a renewed interest right now. Parents of freshmen have been especially interactive - I think the updates on our page serve as a link between them and their son/daughter during this initial adjustment period.


  8. Avatar image
    LeRoy Lee Says:

    We just started our FB fan page (had been using a group) and are launching it around the arrival of students. I am hoping we can drum up that kind of community.


  9. Avatar image
    Lane Joplin Says:

    In the past few weeks, we have seen an increase in activity. It seems like posting about breaks and move ins are the biggest draw to interactions. We see more interactions from current students on info about breaks and major events on campus, while prospective students comment more on links and club events on campus.

    @Devin Which is more valuable, a like or a comment? To me that depends on what is posted. If you post “3 more days until the semesters over,” I think a like would be more valuable, because there is no draw for a comment. But when you post “Move Ins today!” it makes people remember the day they started college. If you post “Any last questions before the start of the semester?” comments are like gold! “Likes” are irrelevant. A “like” says to me “Someone might actually care what I’m saying, but I don’t care enough to comment.” When comments allow you to go back and show the fan page is working. You are seeing people interact by asking questions.

    However, this can vary from Fan Page to Fan Page based on who makes up the audience.


  10. Avatar image
    Bradjward Says:

    The answer is in the data. ;)


  11. Avatar image
    Devin Mason Says:

    @Lane I totally agree that it depends on the situation, I usually tend to put more stock in comments because the person actually took the time to write something down. In my initial look at the data the snowball effect that took place was the eye opener.

    @Brad You hit the nail on the head. I just took stock of all of our data from our Facebook posts using our insights,Facebook wall, and data and it turns out that engagement through link clicking is extremely valuable as well. In fact, I’d say it is the most valuable if it is getting people back to your site. That being said, I think there is value in balancing your linking between your site and other media sites so your audience can see that you are authentic an reputable.


  12. Avatar image
    Zack Barnett Says:

    At the University of Oregon, earlier this spring we gave admin privileges to people in admissions, development, museums, and our communications office. We agreed that each of us could make informal periodic updates, and like Rachel, we didn’t really plan out topics or strategy except to keep it updated and diverse without overdoing it. Since then, we’ve nearly doubled our fan base just with simple and fun updates a couple times a week. Now maybe the next step: How do you feel about linking to a Facebook page from the university’s homepage?


  13. Avatar image
    Andrew Careaga Says:

    Thought I’d give this a try so I posted a simple message on our Missouri S&T Facebook page this morning:

    Good morning, Missouri S&T! How do you plan to be successful this week?

    Six replies so far, which may not sound like much, but better than what most messages (usually feeds) get.


  14. Avatar image
    Bradjward Says:

    Zack - Definitely go for the callouts! Nearly 8 of 10 schools that have callouts on their homepage link to Facebook. More at

    Andrew - I tried to tell you this a few weeks ago :)

    Being human wins every time.


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    Jen Says:

    I’ve also noticed that when we’ve added things to our University of South Australia page that are more personal like good luck with exams, that we get more interaction with those things. We also get a good response from some of the events and news stories we add to the page too.


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    Facebook Application Developer Says:

    Really great and useful answer. Thanks


  17. Avatar image
    Facebook Application Developer Says:

    Its really good post. With more than 300 million active users, chances are you have a Facebook account. And with social networking ranking as the 4th most popular online activity.


  18. Avatar image
    Paul Says:

    Its an interesting experience you’ve had here Rachel. I think younger people respond well to status updates and are more likely to post a response to it. I agree that keeping it simple is good as I think people just enjoy having a conversation through status updates on fan pages but don’t like the conversation being steered to much from the inital update.



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